Ask Team Practical: The Bachelor/Bachelorette Party

It’s Ask Team Practical Friday with Alyssa! To end the week with a bang, today we’re taking on Bachelor and Bachelorette parties, complete with strippers and secrets. Don’t tell us we never tackle the controversial subjects! Because this is a complicated subject, both Alyssa and I wrote our own, slightly different, responses to the question, though we’re mostly in agreement. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the taboo:

Today’s question is from Elizabeth:

A couple my fiance and I are friends with recently got engaged.  I’m happy for them, but slightly disturbed that in the same conversation where they announced their engagement they started talking about the bachelor party (and bachelorette party) and the strippers that they’ll have.  Though it seems to be taboo, I personally believe that celebrating your impending marriage with your friends by treating it like impending doom and getting drunk AND hot and bothered by a member of the opposite sex that is not your intended seems to imply that you aren’t really ready to get married.  They also said that whatever happened at the  respective parties must remain a secret to the other, like “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” which seems to allow for all sorts of immoral things to happen.  It seems disrespectful of the vows they will take, and of the vows my fiance and I will take, to say, “Well, it doesn’t matter what I do tonight, cause as long as you don’t know what happens, you’ll be there tomorrow.”  I’ve read that these parties are supposed to prove to your friends that you’re still one of them, but it seems that this can be done without strippers, and without secrets, though perhaps not without the booze.

Am I crazy for feeling this way?

Would it be unfair to ask my fiance not to participate, since I no longer plan to participate in the bachelorette  party?

Is there really any good way around this issue at all?

First, lets start with Alyssa’s point of view:

To answer your questions,


Yes, mostly.

And maybe.

Let’s start off with a little ground rules.  I’m going to say a lot of “bachelor” in here, but this advice applies to same sex couples also.

Also, and most importantly, this is not about strippers.  SERIOUSLY.  Therefore, I am requesting that those of you with strong feelings about strip clubs and strippers (be they positive or negative,) keep them in check as much as possible in the comments, please and thank you. We have women on APW that work in sexual advocacy as well as women who work (or have worked) in strip clubs or in things that easily get confused with strip clubs. Please keep that in mind.

Because, incidentally, this question isn’t really about strip clubs.  This is about boundaries.

There is no harm in having feelings about anything.  It’s how you act upon them that’s the important part.  Your feelings on strip clubs are completely valid.  However, it’s the question of whether or not you can ask your fiance not to attend, that’s where things get sticky.

You can absolutely ask him not to go.  However, your absence from the bachelorette party shouldn’t automatically indicate his from the bachelor party. You deciding not to attend an event that you didn’t want to go to in the first place, does not mean that he needs to stay home from a similar event. If he asked you not to go to the bachelorette party, then you can ask him not to go to the bachelor party. But you’re really and truly not going because you don’t want to. Yes, your strong feelings for your partner are intertwined in your reasons, but he is not the entire reason.

That being said, yes, you can definitely say, “I’m seriously uncomfortable with you going to this bachelor party, and I would rather you didn’t.”  Then you outline your reasons why.  (I can tell from your letter that this isn’t about any kind of worries about infidelity, so make sure you convey that. That might be the first place he goes and it would turn the discussion into something that you never intended.) It’s quite possible he has similar feelings about the party. But maybe he doesn’t. And if you feel strongly about this, then this is a conversation that needs to happen. If even the thought of him going to a strip club makes you shake, makes your stomach hurt or makes you want to sob or yell, it is a valid problem and needs to be discussed. (And you’re not “making a big deal out of nothing.”)

That said, your partner may counter with reasons that he does want to go. And chances are, very few of them will have to do with unclothed ladies.  It most likely will be about hanging out with friends at an important event, being a part of the group, not letting them down. And those reasons are just as valid as yours. A bachelor party is seen as a last hurrah, but in actuality it is what you make it. And for your partner, what he makes it may be a chance to hang out with his friends at an event that is important to them – their bachelor/bachelorette party.

[Note: I’m gonna be honest here. 90% of bachelor/bachelorette parties that go out with the intention of having an EPIC TIME end the same way: everybody, hyped up on their friendship, drunk on cheap well drinks and missing about 20% more of their cash than they intended to spend, standing in the parking lot watching as the betrothed ralphs up their tennies. (That’s vomiting, for you more classy folks.)  The reason they have to make that secret pact, if people found out what really went on, everyone would realize how lame they are.]

And here’s the other thing. “It seems disrespectful of the vows they will take, and of the vows my fiance and I will take…” Your vows have nothing to do with the other couple’s vows and their relationship has nothing to do with yours. Some people think bachelor parties need boobies and peen. Some don’t. To each his (or her) own. A bachelor party can most certainly happen without strip clubs or secrets, but this one isn’t. That does not mean that you and your partner need to keep the party’s events secret. So have the discussion. In the end, it’s his decision that he’ll have to make and he’ll have to deal with the ramifications with you – if there are any. This may not even be an issue, he might be feeling the same way that you do. (It is my personal opinion that most men and women like the IDEA of a strip club rather than the reality.) Your objections may be all he needs to say, “Nope, not a good idea, I’ll meet y’all for dinner and you can go to the club without me after.”

And if he doesn’t feel the same way and decides to go, well, this won’t be the last time you two will have definite difference of opinions on choices the other one will make.  Figure out how strongly you object (without friends, family or even me swaying you) and then go from there. You’ll work it out and be better for it.

Now, Meg’s Point of Veiw:

First of all, let me start out by saying I agree with Alyssa. Check, check, check. But I want to add something else to this conversation: the idea of discussing and defining what your sexual boundaries are in your relationship.

Strip clubs can be a little scary, and complicated. They touch on a lot of powerful subjects like feminism, and sex work, our personal definitions of monogamy, and well, our fundamental ideas about sex. And as such, talking about strip clubs means talking about your sexual rules and boundaries within your relationship, which can be scary as sh*t, but necessary.

First up, your rules do not have to be the same as anyone elses rules. Your friends are not doing anything immoral, or disrespecting their vows, as long as they are respecting each other. They could agree to go to Vegas and each hire a hooker, and it would be none of your business. What is your business is what ground rules you set with your partner.

And that means a conversation. You’re uncomfortable with strip clubs, that much is clear. You need to figure out exactly why that is, and then start a conversation with your partner about it. That does not mean you get to tell your partner what he thinks about strip clubs. That means you get to ask him what he thinks and why. And that might mean, “I get really turned on by naked ladies that are not my wife,” and if that’s the case, it is not your job to tell him that is not an acceptable sexual urge. It’s your job to talk about it, and start to come to an understanding of what each of your sexual needs are, and where you are going to set your personal sexual boundaries.

And for everyone else, I’m assigning some APW sexual boundary homework: have a good long read through Dan Savage’s archives. If you’re exploring your feelings about strip clubs (or just want a really good read) I reccomend the excellent Strip City, by Lilly Burana.

Good luck, and brave talking.

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  • Rachel

    I’ve seen questions along similar lines answered on other websites in the past, but I’ve never seen it handled so well. I think you touched on all the most important points, especially the point of boundaries – what’s acceptable in your relationship could be completely different than what’s acceptable in another, and it doesn’t make one approach more right or less right, just different.

    I have a very laid-back circle of friends, so I’ve never been to a ‘stereotypical’ bachelorette party. The first one I went to involved dinner and disco bowling, the last one I went to was a weekend at a cottage. My partner went to the bachelor parties that coincided with both of those bachelorettes, and the first was a trip to the city to see a baseball game and do a brewery tour, and the second was a camping trip. These kinds of events are right up our alley, so we had a blast, but if the bride or groom in either case had decided to go the strippers and booze route, we still would have attended, and we likely still would have had fun, because even though it’s not our cup of tea, a night out with friends celebrating a major milestone in a loved-ones life is still worth attending (for us).

    But, I absolutely agree that if it’s a serious issue for you, it warrants a good discussion with your partner. Like Alyssa said, it doesn’t mean you’re getting worked up over nothing, or being a nag, or being controlling, it means you have strong feelings about something and you want to express them and discuss them, which is the foundation of a healthy, balanced relationship.

    • Ditto to your entire comment, but mostly the middle paragraph. Most bachelor/ette parties I’ve been to or know of have been laid back, awesome parties that suit the couple. I’ve been to ONE full-out, crazy, penis balloons/candy/whistles/straws/cake, condoms-on-bananas, stripper-in-a-gorrilla-costume, mechancial bull bachelorette party. Even the BRIDE was overwhelmed; her friends had planned it without much input from her at all. It was a good time, but only because I ignored the crazy and just hung out with the bride and danced all night and had free drinks. Like you said, I was there for a friend, and I celebrated her big milestone all night long.

  • Huh. The timing. I’m planning my Hen’s Do’s (I’m having two – city where I live and city where we’re getting married) and felt the need to include a disclaimer in the Facebook Event that I had a zero tolerance no schlong policy, including the line that “There’s only one penis I’m interested in, thank you very much, and it is not plastic, nor lit with LEDs, nor available for viewing in print/film/digitally nor encased in any form of patterned/sequinned thongs. ”

    Which is a roundabout way to say that – dig this conversation.
    I appreciate where Asker is coming from about feeling uncomfortable with the idea of strip clubs and that others might go against my perception of the meaning of their wedding vows.
    I also really like the way Alyssa and Meg have framed their responses to directing it back at Asker to investigate her values and ideals. Great points ladies.

    • Melodious

      I’m totally stealing your Facebook comment and emailing it to all the friends currently planning my bachelorette party.

  • Chelsea

    This is awesome – thank you guys for not immediately vilifying strip clubs. Not that I’m a giant fan of strip clubs or anything, but I 100% appreciate the “to each his own” attitude here. You’re right, as usual – everyone’s comfort with what’s happening is so much more important than the actual details.

    My now-husband went to a strip club for part of his bachelor party (strangely enough, at my encouragement – I had been to one, he never had, it seemed like a good occasion to even out the score). Now we joke that he went to a “chess tournament” … but sometimes we slip and say “chest tournament.”

    • If high school chess clubs marketed themselves that way, I bet they’d get a lot more respect around campus. ;)

      • unrelated, but my college chess club’s tagline was “make a move” and all of the outreach (posters and shirts and such) involved scantily clad men or women posing with chess pieces/boards =)

    • Oh, exactly. People have different relationships with sex, the naked body, monogamy, and boundaries, and respecting that is pretty awesome. It’s aaaaaall about ground rules for each individual person, and each couple.

  • I agree w/ Rachel that this is handled better than I’ve ever seen it.

    Mine consisted of going out with the girls to my favorite Mexican restaurant to eat nummy food and drink tequila. My husband’s (then fiance) brothers rented a bus and invited a bunch of their friends to go into NYC (from Long Island) to a biergarten in Williamsburg. At the end of the night, the two of us had an hour-plus phone conversation detailing the events of the night, and how much fun we both had celebrating with our loved ones.

    Because that’s what it is about – celebrating. Revelry. There is no one definition.

    • When I asked my fiance what his plans were for his stag do, his reply was “Get a car. Fill it with Beer. And Bacon.” Made me laugh.

      • Manya

        When I asked my fiancé what he’d want to do he said: “blow sh*t up
        …preferably a car.” cracked me up.

        I love Meg’s suggestion of perusing Dan Savage… I love his work, and both Alyssa and Meg’s suggestions of confronting sexual needs and boundaries with some real soul searching and honesty is just essential. Sexual incompatibility is a deal breaker, even if you adore everything else about a person.

      • My guy played 3-handed pinochle with his dad and brother.

      • How did I miss this part of the conversation? This is epic.

        I want this EVERY DAY.

      • Ha! That is awesome. I’m sure a large portion of the male population (and some of us chickys, too) would be quite happy with that scenario. In fact, that may just turn out to be my go-to make-up policy from now on: “Honey, just go out to the car, will you? Come back when you’re good and ready. Oh, and I’m sorry.”

  • My husband’s bachelor party involved a play his brother wrote and real live swords. We were more worried about someone losing an appendage than strippers. And we were seriously worried.

    This is such good and thorough advice. It reminds me of a book I read about a family of psychologists who would say to their kids “You get to be the expert on yourself.” I really liked it – it both means that no one else can tell you how to feel about something – that you know yourself better than anyone. But the inverse is also true – you’re NOT the expert on other people. It’s both liberating and empowering and boundary-setting, too.

    • “You get to be the expert on yourself.” I really liked it – it both means that no one else can tell you how to feel about something – that you know yourself better than anyone. But the inverse is also true – you’re NOT the expert on other people. It’s both liberating and empowering and boundary-setting, too.

      YES. I want to print this out and laminate it and stick it in my wallet for quick reference.

      The extension is also true: “You are the expert on your relationship.” Not your parents, not your friends, not even your therapist (though they probably come closest). Find out what works for you and your partner, and go with it.

      • I loved that as well. What a wonderful way to look at it. There are a few people I would like to print that on a card and hand it to them because telling me how I should feel is not acceptable.

    • meg

      Add me to the list of people loving this.

    • Melanie

      “You get to be the expert on yourself.”

      Yes x 100.

      And to Alyssa and Meg’s reaction to this question, thank you x 100.

      And after 3 gin martinis, this lurker can say with confidence: I lurve y’all.

  • Annnd THIS is why I love APW. As others have noted, it’s not a new question, but by far the best handling I’ve ever seen.

    I will add one thing, that Alyssa alluded to in her answer: if the couple wants to and is comfortable with spending the evening getting lap dances and doing “stays in Vegas” worthy stuff, it doesn’t mean that all the attendees have to. Your fiancé can attend, hang with his friends, and shake his head ruefully at how the host is going to explain the glitter in his hair the next day – for that matter, so can you, except that you’ve already expressed that you don’t want to go, which is cool. Witnessing what other people choose as their sexual boundaries doesn’t imply in any way an acceptance of those things as YOUR boundaries (if it did, all that evangelical “gay lifestyle bashing” would be right). But you do have to have that talk, to figure out what exactly your lines are.

    • clampers

      I like your suggestion of going but not necessarily participating. Sounds like a happy medium to me.

      • Meaghan 2

        That’s what my now husband (A) did for his best friend’s (J) bachelor party. J wanted strippers and A wasn’t comfortable with it but being the good best man he was, he planned the whole evening and included the strippers. So after dinner and drinks, they started the bar crawl. After hitting a few bars, a group went to the strip club and the ones who weren’t interested stayed at the bar. After about an hour the group that went to the strip club had enough fun and they entire group resumed the bar crawl. J was happy and so was A.

        And when A and I got married, he still didn’t want anything to do with a strip club and J respected that as his best man. He planned the day for A and they had a good time without strippers.

        • z

          I wouldn’t ask a friend to plan me a party he or she wasn’t comfortable with.

          • I don’t want to butt in, but Meaghan 2 didn’t leave me with the impression that anyone asked her husband to do something he wasn’t comfortable with. He planned a party for his friend that he thought his friend would enjoy, and indeed everyone enjoyed it. Success!

          • z

            I think that’s what the word “but” indicates.

            Is he automatically not a “good best man” if he doesn’t want to plan an event with strippers?

  • Despite my very strong anti-strip-club feelings, I’m surprising myself a little by totally agreeing with everything that’s been said here. I’ll be honest, I would have had the exact same reaction as the person who asked the question. EXACT same. I would have worried about the couple and the steadiness of their relationship, I would have declined attending, and I would have asked Mark not to attend. And yes, I hate to admit that I probably would have judged them a little. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to remember that even if strippers etc would be almost unforgivable in OUR relationship, that isn’t at all true for everyone else. Thanks for the reminder, ladies.

    • Anonymous Prude

      i totally had the same reaction to this scenario and so did my future-hubs– yes he reads APW (and Cosmo) over my shoulder. But having read through the responses I immediately realized that yes, everyone’s relationship is theirs to set up the way they wish, and just because I wouldn’t do it how they would doesn’t give me a right to judge. Hell, I’m sure there are tons of people out there saying “you and your husband aren’t having bachelor/bachelorette parties?” and thinking that totally means there’s something wrong with our relationship (she’s too controlling, or whatever). I wouldn’t want that, so I will attempt to my best ability not to make similar judgments about other people.

      However, I know with my social anxiety disorder, that I would be extremely uncomfortable and probably need lots and lots of Xanax if I attended a party like the one described. So I would probably very politely decline, citing as I usually do, my S.A.D. and how I freak out around lots of people. Then I would ask my friend if she wanted to have lunch or drinks or whatever at another time so we can have our own time to catch up. As for future-hubs, he knows that I trust him and I’m not going to tell him he “can’t” go, but I doubt that he would because he’s a homebody like me, and frankly he claims to think strippers are usually gross. (His opinion, not mine, I have almost no experience with strippers but I’m sure many of them are not “gross” so don’t get mad at me)

  • I can understand how you could easily feel that their intentions were disrespectful of YOUR vows, but in my view this comes back in many ways to the whole unusually-upsetable-during-engagement thing. She’s just done something – she hasn’t done anything TO YOU. Though believe me I know what a triumph of will it can be to tell yourself that when engaged and vulnerable.

  • I think bachelor and bachelorette parties are a great excuse for couples to talk about their ideas about sex and marriage, which can be a difficult topic. If one partner feels it’s totally fine for him to go to a bachelor party and get a lap dance, because he’s obviously not thinking of cheating with this woman or making any emotional attachment, that’s something he needs to discuss with his partner. Similarly, a partner should feel comfortable saying that she’s not cool with that, even if there’s no intention to cheat involved. And it can be different for every couple. Whatever ends up working, it’s a great excuse to approach these topics.

    • mere…

      my boyfriend’s circle of friends (including the girls) has been known to end a night out by stopping at a nearby strip club. the first time this came up after we were dating, we sat down and had a conversation about why he was going and what he expected out of it. it was really encouraging for me to hear his opinion b/c it had everything to do with a bonding experience with his friends and nothing (okay, probably very little) to do with naked women. and i got to hear him say that most of the time he’s there he’s thinking “my girlfriend is hotter, i can’t wait to get home to her”…which wasn’t a bad thought to have in the back of my head! knowing all of that, i don’t worry when he’s out. and during our conversation i had my chance to tell him what behavior i would want from him in those situations: i ask that he always tell me BEFORE they actually go to a strip club. i told him i would never want to find out after the fact or from someone else, because that would make me question whether something shady went down. knowing he respects me enough to meet my request of prior knowledge, helps me trust him completely whenever he’s somewhere that i may not love. the point being though – that one upfront conversation saved us a lot of unclear expectations and hurt feelings later on.

  • kimikaze

    This is especially timely for me, as I’m planning my hen’s night now. FYI, we’re dressing in a corpse bride theme and going to a horror theatre restaurant. I’m pretty dang excited (even for the plastic penises)

    We’ve already established each other’s boundaries around strip clubs, as we’ve both been to them socially (as opposed to in the course of a buck’s or hen’s night) and spoken about it after. I’m glad we had that conversation before we were engaged, because it took a lot of potentially awkward situations and made them easy to deal with.

    Extremely well-written and balanced as always.
    Also, mad props to any pole-dancing APWers out there – that takes some serious strength.

  • As usual, you ladies handled this question so much better than anywhere else I’ve seen.

    My husband went to Vegas, and I stayed here in NYC and had dinner at a fancy restaurant with my friends and then went to a speakeasy (which sounds SO much cooler than it ended up being). He ended up “babysitting” to a certain degree, because inevitably some of the guys went a little nuts and got too trashed. And although my friends and I had no strip-club plans, we did plan to have an EPIC night, but instead I found myself passed out on my sofa with one of my bridesmaids by about 12:30am. I think both of us ended up being a lot lamer than we had intended… but that’s sort of the story of our lives. ;-)

    My then-fiance deciding to go to Vegas with his friends definitely forced us to have some important conversations, and I was pretty happy to find we felt the same way about certain things. I had to take a step back and remember, I trust this guy – and I wouldn’t be marrying him if I didn’t feel like I could send him off to Vegas for a weekend and know that he wasn’t going to cross any kind of boundary in our relationship.

  • shorty j

    this is, without a doubt, the best post I have ever read on this subject. Go APW!

    Too often, lady-centric discussions about bachelor parties (especially those involving strippers) tend to fall into misogyny rather quickly (“eww, I don’t want those gross strippers touching my man,” and so on). The realization that this really is WAY more about boundaries than anything else keeps it appropriate and productive.

    Caveat: I’m nonmonogamous, but have been in monogamous relationships for many years in the past. I think people in traditionally monogamous relationships (including myself) often go into those relationships with a lot of assumptions about how the other person is going to behave, and this can be deeply problematic in many situations–for example, I had an ex who defined monogamy as “never touching a non-family member, ever”; in his eyes, it was considered cheating if I so much as hugged someone else. I was appalled, and he was appalled that I was appalled! Other folks I’ve known have assumed that being in a relationship means you no longer participate in activities like masturbation or looking at naked people (in real life or otherwise). Everyone defines these things differently, but not talking about them and figuring out how they work in the context of your current relationship can lead to some seriously awkward moments. (the “nice” thing about nonmonogamy is that you almost HAVE to have these kinds of conversations. Many, many awkward conversations. Right at the start, because your relationship model isn’t common enough for people to generally have solid assumptions about it.)

    That, in a way, is why I love situations like the bachelor party, because they sort of force your hand and get you to confront your boundaries and the meaning behind them, to think about WHY you feel the way you do because it may very well turn out that you don’t actually know. I wish people felt more comfortable having these conversations from day 1, and that defining exactly what monogamy means wasn’t quite so taboo. Plus, by HAVING these conversations, you can help avoid that other bachelor-party stereotype: the person who says “right honey, no strippers” and then goes to the strip club anyway.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      This. The whole strip club/bachelor/ette discussion is so not about parties or strippers it’s about each person’s definition of monogamy. The panic, the worry, the fight couples have is the sort of natural response to realizing they aren’t 100% confident that their definitions are the same.

      For me, personally, watching strippers and receiving lap dances in a club doesn’t cross any lines of fidelity. My husband and I agree on that so invitations to strip clubs don’t make any waves in our house. Same goes for pornography, masturbation and fantasies. Also, cheek kisses, bear hugs and slow dances. Knowing we both acknowledge these bounderies takes a lot of stressors out of our long-distance relationship.

      Having those conversations allows us to be honest with each other and no secrets = no feeling guilty. Plus it puts us in the position to bring up behavior that feels like a gray area and fine tune where that line is.

      • And it never has to be a DISCUSSION. I think what scares people is they think discussions are when something is going wrong or that a discussion needs to be something serious and sober.
        It can be done naked going, “See these boobies? You can look at other boobies, but you cannot touch other boobies. Even if you pay for it. Okay? Okay. Now touch my boobies.”

        • That’s really funny!

          That’s very similar to the way I used to explain things to autistic teenagers I worked with (though not naked and not about boobies).


      • I agree that for a lot of us the discussion is about the definition of monogamy. But for some of us, it is also about feminism and objectification.

        • Yeah, for me it’s partially about feminism, objectification of women, and those big social issues. But moreso for me, it’s about my self-esteem & not-good body image. I don’t think (for me) it’s about our views on monogamy at all. For me, I think that would be a much easier (though not necessarily easy) discussion to have.

          I really appreciated Alyssa & Meg validating that feeling hurt/otherwise bad about it is valid and worthy of discussion; it doesn’t make me a nag. I needed to hear that. Even today (a year and a half later), I feel kind of badly that I had such strong feelings against it.

          • Yes, we’ve been told so much that our opinions as women aren’t worth as much and that we should apology for them. Which we shouldn’t. Our opinions and feels are just as worthy as anyone else’s. We aren’t nags if we want our opinions to be heard and taken into consideration.

    • Hoppy Bunny

      Shorty J, you are awesome.

  • Jesse

    The best bachelor/ette party story I’ve heard involved strippers. The couple hired both a male and female stripper to accommodate the various sexual identities held by their friends. During the party itself, the event migrated from stripping to teaching. The dancers taught their audience moves which could be incorporated into foreplay. It turned the party into a personal empowerment exercise rather than a passive “watch and be entertained” situation.

    I say if you’re on the fence about wanting to go to the party but not wanting to head to a strip club, call around. Find a dancer or two who would be willing to teach you the moves.

    • Karen

      What a great idea! I love this, embracing sex and everyone’s sexuality rather than putting it on display and being weirded out by it.

  • Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I feel like I start all my comments at APW with a giant, capslock, “F*CK YES”, but y’all are just so smart.

    Alyssa is totally right: those “epic” parties are always less badass than they appear, and this whole question is ALL about boundaries.

    And Meg is right:
    First up, your rules do not have to be the same as anyone else’s rules. Your friends are not doing anything immoral, or disrespecting their vows, as long as they are respecting each other. They could agree to go to Vegas and each hire a hooker, and it would be none of your business. What is your business is what ground rules you set with your partner.

    Absolutely. This is not about what anyone else is doing. It’s about what is right for YOU and YOUR relationship. Every couple has their own definitions of sexuality, boundaries, monogamy, and rules about sex. What this couple is doing does not nullify another couple who have decided to wait to have sex until marriage; their vows, and their sex lives, are entirely their own business.

    My husband and I are ridiculous flirts. It’s how we met, way back in high school- we were flirting with each other, and probably a few other people at the same time. We haven’t changed all that much– but we trust one another. So if I go out with girlfriends and am flirty, that’s not cheating. If he goes to a bachelor party and enjoys checking out hot girls (clothed or not), that’s totally fine. I’m not offended or disrespected– we are sexual beings, and we have chosen to direct that sexuality toward each other, but denying that there are other people we could be attracted to simply isn’t our style. We wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but it works for us.

    Any issues we have about sexuality we deal with together. It’s a touchy issue, but when you communicate with each other, you avoid tension, omissions, and anything else that can breed distrust or even sexually-initiated infidelity. Everyone is different, and this is one of those times where communication, trust, and honesty are hugely important in relationships. If you are honest with him, and he’s honest with you, you can make rules about sex that are right for both of you.

  • Jen M

    I wish there was an exactly button for each sentence in a post (totally practical! haha!) Because this is just exactly exactly exactly how I feel about this situation:
    “Your friends are not doing anything immoral, or disrespecting their vows, as long as they are respecting each other. They could agree to go to Vegas and each hire a hooker, and it would be none of your business. What is your business is what ground rules you set with your partner.”
    WTG, you two nailed this one.

    and on a totally unrelated and slightly stalkerish tangent- Alyssa I saw your little gravitar on another site reviewing some hair products and I love your hair and I have a curly mess on my head and want to know what product you use, so e-mail me, k? thanks :)

    • Hey, sweetie! Thanks for the kind words, but I can’t really email you if you don’t leave an email address. You can reach me through here, WHT or my own blog, Kind of a Mess!

    • Rachel

      Hi Jen M – scrolling through the archives and saw your Q for Alyssa – can I suggest trying KMS Curl-up bounce back spray. Just the spray, mind; the rest of the products don’t help. Soak those curls with the KMS and then diffuse until completely dry – the key is: no touching of the curls / no towel drying either.

  • Wow, this is my first time commenting here though I have been reading for the last year.

    In my mind, there could really be two different arguments or “discussions” happening here:

    1) If the husbands position was “I like strip clubs, I want to go to Joe’s bachelor party” that would be the time for a discussion about who you are as a couple and what your sexual boundaries are.

    2) If the husbands position was “I like Joe, and I want him to think I am cool, so I am going to this bachelor party even though you are really upset about it” that is a deeper relationship conversation about independence, making choices, and what decisions you are going to make together vs. separately down the line.

    That said, really, it doesn’t matter what another couple does right before their wedding, right after their wedding, or 50 years from now. It is pretty tough to be offended by someone else’s wedding vows (Britney Spears anyone?). Don’t volunteer to be the wedding police–it is way to much work.

    • FM

      I’m glad you said this. I think #2 is definitely a big part of the issue for a lot of people – fears about their partners’ weaknesses (or maybe just traits? maybe not necessary to call them weaknesses?) that might lead them to make different choices in this context due to peer pressure, intoxication, going-with-the-flow, whatever. Also important things to talk about. I think bachelor/bachelorette parties are really great for bringing up good and important conversations.

    • meg

      Well said.

    • I think you just hit what has been bothering me. I know my partner doesn’t want a stripper or to attend a strip club, but I know that the pressure when surrounded by his guy friends (especially brother-in-law and brother) will be to partake in activities that are beyond my comfort zone.

      We’ve had discussions about this topic before about what I’m comfortable with him doing and not doing at bachelor parties, and it always comes down to the fact that I don’t trust certain “friends.” I feel like they purposely put him in an uncomfortable situation and it’s hard for him to refuse to participate.

      For example, at his brother-in-law’s bachelor party, he was put on the spot to receive a lap dance. He would have never volunteered to get a lap dance, but suddenly when the groom was singling him out and asking him to get one with him, he felt like he would be letting down his brother-in-law if he said no.

      • kc

        Yes this. When our parties rolled around I was a jumble of nerves because I didn’t trust the best man. He has, on numerous occasions, done things to try to harm my and the boy’s relationship. I’ve known for years that he’s resentful of my stealing of his wingman, pretty much because he’s told me so (always when drunk). Still, I didn’t want to be that girl, you know, the one who gets between friends. I wanted the boy to acknowledge what his friend was/had been doing and stop it. I wanted him to stand up for me (and us). And I wanted him to do this without my having to tell him.

        The problem with that (aside from the obvs) is when ever we would discuss the bachelor party (which really was code for hey, your friend can be an asshole) it put us both in a defensive position (Don’t you trust me/Why won’t you stand up for us). Ugly.

        We did eventually work it out. Mainly because I finally told him, HEY, YOUR FRIEND CAN BE AN ASSHOLE. I wasn’t telling him not to be the guy’s friend. But I was telling him that I needed him to be an active guardian of our relationship. It was unfair to leave me holding the bag because he didn’t want to deal with his friend.

        • H

          KC – ‘I didn’t want to be that girl, you know, the one who gets between friends.’ Ahh yes, exactly. Then replace ‘friends’ with ‘family’….

          Take his brothers’ penchant for bad choices when intoxicated, his loyalty to his brothers if/when they get into trouble, add a bachelor party held in a foreign country (with a record for unforgiving jail attitudes to foreigners) two days before destination beach wedding and I feel a little anxious. I would love my ‘problem’ to be strippers. I’m really cool with anything like that, it is the more permanent criminal record that gets me.

          I voiced my desire last weekend that he not get locked up on said bachelor party. And then I was sad that I felt I needed to say it. Have decided to not spend any more time worrying about something I can’t do anything further about and that may not even happen, trust that fate will be good to me, and cross my fingers. I will be very happy to see him the morning after in one piece!

          Note – when talking about time in the big house, it is ‘public urinating’ (why oh why?), ‘public nuisance’ and ‘disturbance of the peace’ type of felony I’m hinting at. Nothing more. :-)

      • I exactly’ed this, but am doubling my efforts because Ex-Act-Ly! I trust my husband, etc., but his friends (one of whom married husband’s cousin, so now we’re family)…. In my case, my husband is super-stubborn and so will ignore peer pressure, but yuck! He shouldn’t have to! And then I feel badly that I can’t just be cool with him getting a lap dance or whatever (which he would be super uncomfortable with, too). Anyhow, I’m right there with you, Ms Bunny.

        • z

          Why would you feel badly? You’re entitled to your own views about what’s appropriate for your relationship. Even if that other men would prefer that you tolerate it. You don’t owe it to anyone to be ok with this and they’ll just have to put up with it, omg what an imposition!

  • Liz

    This was the most thoughtful, sensible (dare I say, practical) approach to this topic I’ve seen, and I think the advice applies beyond strip clubs and wild parties. It’s so easy to have emotional reactions to the choices our close friends make, and it’s fantastic to have a reminder to step back and let them make their own decisions, just like you’d make yours.

    • Martha

      This is exactly what I was just trying to figure out how to say. Your eloquence beats mine by a million. :)

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      So well put. Instead of getting heated over this stuff, maybe we should see these events as an opportunity to explore and discuss our own bounderies and relationship from a fresh point of view.

    • It’s even easier to have emotional reactions to what your partner wants to do, and not even realize why you’re having that particular kind of reaction. Calls into play the not-always-fun kind of self-reflection and self-analyzing.

      • Kristin

        Well said. In subjects like these, it’s a very personal topic. It forces you to be introspective and figure out why you are having such strong reactions (if you are).

        I hear where you are all coming from, too, with the whole brother-in-law putting peer pressure on your guy. My future brother-in-law doesn’t necessarily pressure D into doing stuff, but he’s had him in some pretty awkward situations (like bringing a “stripper” back to the hotel room while they were in Vegas together). Luckily, D and I are both very open about our sexuality and are very comfortable talking about these things and have done so since the beginning of our relationship. I think if you have had this conversation up front, it takes the “what if?” out of situations. Like if you’ve discussed what you are comfortable with in regards to strip clubs, if your significant other respects you and your boundaries, you shouldn’t have to worry about what he’s doing at the strip club. If you don’t let them know about your personal comfort and boundaries, how can you hold him accountable for his actions in certain situations? He may think it’s totally a-ok to motorboat a strippers boobs while you don’t want him to put a dollar in her g-string. Let him know what you are comfortable with.

  • Well, to answer your first question…you are so not crazy for thinking this way! I would feel just the same too – It does make me a little bit sad how hen parties/stag do’s (as we call them here in the UK) are usually centred around celebrating the end of something amazing rather than the start of something amazing. And I think seeing as you do have strong feelings about strip clubs you should definatley talk to your fiance about it – remembering all the wise advice that’s above. Chances are he might feel the same way as you, but just might not have articulated it. Or, in the case of my man, he just won’t really have spent much time thinking about it as you have. And if he does want to go…well, then it all comes down to his reasons for wanting to go, which you might not agree with or understand, but you can accept because you know him and trust him? I would find that really hard though, think I would kick up a bit of a fuss really!

    Also, you should be excited about when it comes to your bachlorette party, as you can do things in a completely different way – that reflects you- and no way will you have less fun!! It might even give your friends something to ponder over.

  • Oh I remember the first time we had this conversation. My husband went to his college buddy’s bachelor party, which took place at the ever-classy “Penthouse Executive’s Club” in Manhattan (NYC ladies, please tell me you’ve seen this commercial with the 50-foot strippers dancing around sky-scrapers?)

    I played it super cool before the event. I was all, “Of course it’s ok if you go. I’m not going to try and control you…” (umm…yeah. good conversation, Maddie).

    Anywho, when he came back the next day and started to tell me about his night, I flipped out. “You paid for a lap dance?!!!! … Oh, it was for the groom? Um…okay” Cue crying, me explaining that my imagination was running wild and realizing that we hadn’t had the conversation that we really should have had before the fact.

    Point being – listen to Meg and Alyssa’s advice. The best thing you can do is be 100% honest with each other and then respect each other’s opinions and subsequent choices.

    Side note: This same husband chose camping for his own bachelor party, a low-key event with beers and pirate costumes. Meanwhile, I of the oh-so-judgy-ness, got completely obliterated at my bachelorette, decided to smoke pot for the second time ever, and puked in the parking lot of the Portland House of Pizza. So I guess the moral of that story is, I know that sometimes I hold my husband to standards I don’t even hold myself to. And that’s a conversation worth having too…

    • FM

      I have definitely seen that commercial.

      I agree with you about the honesty factor, at least for me (clearly not for the question-asker’s friends who want their nights to be secret). For me, my biggest issue with the current bachelor party cultural buzz is the idea that men shouldn’t talk to their fiance/wife about what “happened” at a bachelor party, and that was the center of my conversations with my husband about it. That, in principle, really offended me, and also made me feel like it erodes the trust we have. Keeping secrets about things he’s done, even for “fun” for male bonding purposes, makes me think there might be something “bad” that he is keeping from me. Of course, as I said, clearly this is not everyone’s boundary, but it was helpful for us to articulate together.

      • Yeah, I completely agree with you there. I think it’s so hard to have these conversations because so much of what makes me queasy is intent. Like, I’m much more comfortable knowing that my husband is going to a strip club out of obligaton than out of desire.

        But hell-to-the-no on any of that “What happens here, stays here” stuff. We just don’t have the capacity to keep things from each other like that, so I think that kind of witholding would be a much more serious indiscretion than if he or I did something stupid.*

        *Oh, it’s almost ALWAYS me doing something stupid. For the record. Like the time I made out with the receptionist at my company holiday party. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t call my husband five minutes later to drunkenly spill the beans. Ahh… he’s such a trooper.

        • Just Jencil

          Creepy timing APW, just finished talking about this all week with the FH (he just came back from his weekend, mine is in a month!) I agree with the honesty part – it was essential for our relationship that we talk about EVEYTHING that happened. I did get all the gory and funny details and some stupid things were done, but we talked it through and our relationship is stronger than ever.

          Know that mistakes can be forgiven, because that is what they are, mistakes. Hurt feeling are an indicator of a deeper underlying problem that is important to discover and fix for a strong, healthy confident relationship.

          Thanks for this article because its helping us communicate an awkward subject even better. I sent it to the FH and we agreed to read through it and all the comments together again after my Hen Night.

          • Just Jencil

            Tried to edit the comment, but the edit button denied me permission for some reason, hm.

            Meant to say, “Hurt feeling *can be* an indicator of a deeper underlying problem that is important to discover and fix for a strong, healthy confident relationship.”

      • Amy

        Ugh, Penthouse club, what a sketchy place. I once had to do a business deal there, don’t ask, sales was not for me.
        Anywho, I think the ever practical advice boils down to know your fiancee, know your relationship, and go from there. I’d be a lot more freaked about my husband going to a strip club if we never had conversations about what monogamy meant to us, and what he thought about strip clubs/porn/sex work. But, I know we’re on the same page, so that makes me a lot more comfortable with the whole thing.
        Though it kind of cracks me up that the guys at my husband’s bachelor party decided as a group to cancel the stripper because they were tired after a day of skiing/drinking/food and just wanted to go to bed. His married friends with kids were just happy to get to sleep in.

      • I agree. A friend came into town and he, himself (my husband), and myself went out on the town. We ended up in a strip club. He disappeared and ended up getting a lap dance. When we found him, he said to me, “Are you mad? Did I do something wrong? Don’t tell [his wife].” I was all, uuuhhhhh . . . “I need to get home, immediately.” It made me feel all kinds of not okay.

      • meg

        You know, I somewhat disagree, from a personal point of view. David and I have some pre-discussed zones of, “This is what I’d prefer you do, but I really don’t want to know details, period.” I think there is a lot of pressure in our culture to be honest about everything, and to talk everything out, and that’s not always helpful. We have a “you don’t have to talk about everything” rule. Sometimes I’ll say, “I’m thinking about something and I don’t want to talk to you about it, but I feel like I’m keeping a secret and I feel guilty.” And David will say, “Some secrets are totally healthy. If you don’t want to talk about it we won’t.”

        So I 110% understand the ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ idea. For all you know from the outside, the couple have said, “A and B are ok, C and D are not ok, and I don’t want details on A and B.” That’s respectful, and can show a really clear understanding of what our tolerance levels are for details about our partners sexual needs. That’s very different from “Men will be men, so don’t ask questions.”

        • Ha, you know what’s funny is that Michael would probably say the same thing about secrets as David. So I guess my need to share has less to do with me needing to hear all of his gory details and more to do with me not feeling like I’m witholding stuff.

          That being said, I agree that it’s completely relative to the rules of an idividual relationship, so long as those rules have been established by the couple and not by society’s, as you mentioned, “Men will be men, so don’t ask questions”.

        • Although, kudos to you for being able to keep something a secret even if it makes you feel a little guilty. I have to blurt things out as quickly as possible or I won’t be able to get my head straight all day. (I’m a bit of an honesty basket case when it comes to Michael, bless him).

        • FM

          Yeah, I get that perspective too, and I’m glad you explained a possible insider-view on how that couple might be dealing with this because I think it’s easy sometimes to assume what is going on between a couple is solely how they explain themselves to the outside world, especially if that outside-world view is different from what you think a relationship should be like.

          I think how much of what’s going on in your life or thoughts or actions gets shared with your partner is really interesting, and is something I think about a lot in the context of my own relationship (lots of sharing), what I thought my relationship with a husband might be (more separate space than it is for us) and what’s going on in other relationships (of course, the gamut).

        • Bee

          The “some secrets are healthy” in a relationship thing is something I definitely had to learn. I think this is so important, and even outside of the sex and boundaries issue. I’m a terrible secret keeper when it comes to my personal life. I attribute it to having to keep lots of confidential information in my head about my kids at work. I don’t know if that’s true, or if I just never developed a proper thought to speech filter… However, there are definitely certain things that I have discovered that my husband simply does not want to know, and that he never wants me to put pressure on myself to tell him something I don’t feel comfortable sharing, unless it’s his Christmas present in question. He always wants to know about the Christmas presents.

        • tirzahrene

          “Some secrets are healthy” is something I wish I’d known years ago. There really IS such a thing as TMI in a marriage…which is why radical honesty can never fully be my cup of tea.

      • mere…

        my friend and her fiance had their parties on the same night and at the end both groups met up at a bar. my boyfriend tagged along with the men and after dinner they hit up several strip clubs. while out, all of the guys drank to a “don’t tell the women where we went” toast. they all actually came up with an itinerary of what they would tell everyone they were doing. when we met up my boyfriend immediately told me and was like “yeah, that’s dumb.” to this day, i still don’t know if my friend’s husband ever confessed. that really bothers me even a couple of years later. who knows? maybe they had actually discussed it earlier, it’s not my place to get mad at him for it anyway. the whole situation did spark a great conversation between my boyfriend and i though, which is always a good thing!

    • I’m sorry… “puked in the parking lot of the Portland House of Pizza” is cracking me up right now for some reason.

      • Well, Katie, I keep it classy here.

        This was of course immediately following my incessant apologies to a good friend for “stealing” Michael from her. Um, because she had a crush on him in the 8th grade… Oh boy.

      • Dutch

        I think it’s the visual image plus the alliteration. Alliteration is almost always funny to me, especially when it involves the word “puke”.

        • Yeah, it was definitely the alliteration.

    • The random detail you mentioned that *totally* resonates with me is being pretty opposed to something, but not wanting to look like a nag. Like as a different example, my husband has been moping around because his buddies want him to get this new video game, he wants to get the game, but he’s also well-aware that we have a 6-month old, and as such, there is barely time for us to interact, much less for him to play this game (which, because of the way he plays games, would take huge blocks of time). I suspect he’s waiting for my blessing, but I can’t give it in good conscience.

      Anyway, I would love to read discussion about Nagging vs. Expressing (possibly nag-ish, but also totally legitimate) Feelings. What are people who are good at this difference doing?

      • z

        By yelling at him when he accuses me of nagging, of course!

        • This wouldn’t work for us because we don’t yell, and he’s never accused me of nagging.

          • z

            Joke, dude.

          • Kristin

            I think it becomes nagging when you have *strong* opinions about EVERYTHING. If you choose your battles, and he knows what is really important to you, and you do it in a mature way, it’s not nagging, it is more of expressing your feelings. At least, that’s how I feel…

      • beth

        I felt this way when my hubby wanted to buy an iPad– I don’t think it’s a good use of resources (time, money), he does. In the end, after much discussion with him and others, I decided that a) he knows how I feel and b) he is an adult, and he wants it, and it’s not something that deeply offends me or will hurt our relationship. So I told him it was up to him, and I let it go. I think of it this way: if I really wanted something and he didn’t see the value in it, I would not enjoy having him guilt me into not getting it. It’s ok if he expresses how he feels about it, and I’ll listen and take that into account, but it’s no fun feeling controlled.

        Another thing this intersects with is: BUDGET. We had already agreed to divert an “allowance” into our separate accounts (after bills are paid from our joint), so he can buy whatever he wants with that money.

  • Marley

    This is a really great discussion! For us it’s a matter of my friends are not all women and his are not all men. Our groups of friends are filled with a mix of men and women with different sexual orientations plus they overlap a bit as we work in the same industry – stereotypical parties of all ladies loving some peen action and a bunch of dudes ogling boobs is way off the mark. We’re opting for a joint bachelor/ette party at one of those grown-up arcades that have beer. This way we’re celebrating the upcoming marriage, not bidding ado to the single life.

    • where did you find a grown-up arcade with beer? is that in DC somewhere?

      • Dave and Buster’s is a chain I know of; I don’t know how widespread it is, but it’s essentially Chuck E Cheese with pool tables, arcade games (tickets!), a restaurant and bar. YUM.

        • That’s what my husband and his friends did for his bachelor outing! (that and eat copious amounts of Brazilian bbq :)) The guys pooled their winnings at the end of the night and got us a blender, which was seriously touching for me since it sent across the message that they support US and were celebrating the start of our marriage rather than mourning the loss of good times.

          • That sounds amazing!! And “EXACTLY” to the celebrating the start of something, instead of mourning a loss. So cute. :)

          • JEM

            That is freaking adorable that they bought you a domestic home good. Love it.

        • oh duh, dave & busters! I forgot about that one. I guess I was imagining this tiny arcade-with-beer in Portland, OR I went to once, and dreamt there might be something like that in DC.

          • Yeah, the thing about Dave and Busters is that they’re a chain… if there were some local dive bar/arcade, I’d be so excited. Anyone know of any independently-owned arcades-with-beer??

        • We’ve got one in Dallas called Barcadia with vintage arcade games. It’s kind of amazing.

          • Alyssa, if I ever come to Dallas, can we please go to there? :)

          • ABSOLUTELY! I’ll even give you my skee-ball tickets.

          • Kristin

            Seriously. I think I love you Alyssa. (and I’m in Dallas too! Sadly though, I have not been to Barcadia, but have only heard great things about it…) I hereby challenge you to a skee-ball duel.

        • Sarah

          Haha … I know Dave & Busters. Silliness ensues whenver we venture in there.

          I’m actually not sure if they’re here in DC, but they’re definitely in SoCal.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        For interested parties, there’s a place like this called The Station in Nashville, TN and The Station II in Huntsville, AL.

        Beer, bowling, pool, arcade games and often live music :)

    • We are doing something similar — having a joint bachelor/bachelorette so our parties can feel like a celebration, not the end of something. Also, we both having close friends of opposite genders and strong mutual friends that we don’t want to force to choose whose party to attend. I think we’ll be going to Second City since it allows minors (my partner’s brother/best man is underage), but still sells alcohol so the of age folks can feel like it’s a proper bachelor/bachelorette party.

  • My 2 cents; if you trust your partner you trust him (or her) all the time. At work, at church, at a strip club. My husband is an unbelieveabe man who deserves a night out with his friends without my interfering and making trust an issue when it needn’t be. Isn’t yours?

    • Agreed.

      But Elizabeth’s instance is more about respect and morality. A lot of the ladies have issues not because they think that their partner will DO anything, but the fact that their partner is a party to an activity they find wrong and uncomfortable for a variety of reasons.
      But their partner might not understand that, which is why they need to be SUPER clear that it’s not about lack of trust in them or their relationship.

      Unless it is. Then that’s an entirely different conversation that needed to already happen.

      • Amy

        Oh and Alyssa – totally agree that most men like the idea of a strip club better than the reality.
        I went to Amsterdam with my now-husband, and after walking through the red-light district (because, hey, we were there, why not at least see it?) he was the one who wanted to leave after about 5 minutes because it freaked him out so much.

        • Most women too!

        • FM

          I think a lot of men feel uncomfortable in strip clubs or around strippers and for a lot of men there is a lot of trying to seem like you’re cool and unfazed and not an a** hole (while simultaneously feeling internally turned on, and/or not wanting to look silly, and/or feeling like what you’re seeing is silly). Women in my experience tend to laugh a lot around male strippers, which I’m guessing is a lot easier than trying look cool!

      • I respect that my partner’s morality might be different than mine. I don’t feel it is necessary to create rules for him. He is an autonomous adult who can make his own. I just don’t like the idea of mandating rules for other adults, particularly ones with whom you have a partnership.

        I got married fully understanding that he will, eventually, do something I don’t like. Just like I will, sometimes make decisions he doesn’t like. I would in no way, shape or form be OK with his dictating to me what I can and can not do, and therefore must also accept his decisions.

        That doesn’t mean either of us makes these decisions without regard to or respect for each other’s feelings, it just means that on occasion we will come to a head where we disagree. And on those occasions, who is to say which of us is right and which is wrong? Are my feelings worth more than his? Is my morality better and therefore subject to his compliance?

        • Arachna

          Well, it depends. I do think my morality is better than anyone else’s – isn’t that the definition of morality? And granted I choose my husband because I think he is a moral person and as important someone who values me and my feelings and thoughts. But that means that I rely on him to give weight to things I think are immoral – but he can’t know how important X is to me unless I express it. Obviously I can’t make him do or not do something at gun point, I don’t own a gun. And I would never threaten to leave unless I was willing to carry through with it and can’t imagine him doing anything that would lead to that. But, yes if I think X is unethical I’m going to express that explicitly and at lenght (because I think ethics are important) and suspect that would be a large factor in his decision.

          • I agree with you- maybe morality is too big a word for what I mean by all this. But that is a reflection of my personal values, the fact that strip clubs aren’t a moral or ethical issue to me, kind of takes the morality out of the equation and brings it right back to a respect and trust thing for me.

          • Arachna

            I’m actually 99.9% with you MM but I know that for other people strip clubs or “fill in the blank” does have strong ethical connotations. And I think it makes sense for their strong feelings to have an influence on their fiance.

        • Again, I agree.
          But I think the rules referred to are the rules decided about your relationship between the two of you. Some people have very thoughtful discussions on a regular basis so the rules are unspoken. But some topics don’t come up and they need to be talked about when they do and your partner is like, “What do you mean you consider that cheating?!?”

          And there may not be a resolution. They may always disagree. Which is why I said “And if he doesn’t feel the same way and decides to go, well, this won’t be the last time you two will have definite difference of opinions on choices the other one will make. Figure out how strongly you object (without friends, family or even me swaying you) and then go from there. You’ll work it out and be better for it.”

          And there’s no way either Meg or I or Lauren advocate dictating. No way, buddy.
          Unless you both decide that you get to boss your partner around sometimes. Cause those relationships are valid too.

  • TNM

    Well, I’m going to have to sound a note of dissent. (Perhaps…)

    I think by saying that “this is not about *strip clubs*,” we are just as guilty of telling someone “how to feel” as the letter writer is in judging the personal choices of her friends. Yes, the bachelor/ette party can and often does raise broader issues of monogamy, trust, boundaries, I second all that. But if you have a problem with strip clubs per se – for feminist reasons, religious ones, etc. – then I’d say, that’s fine. Your problem with a bachelor/ette party might be as simple as that. Now I think the rest of the advice is still great: you still need to talk about it, see how your partner feels, accept you may have differences in outlook, and come to some sort of mutual compromise. But again, I don’t think you need to create some elaborate personal explanation about monogamy and trust as grounds for expressing to your partner your discomfort about strip clubs if indeed you have a more general or political objection.

    For the record, I have been to a number of strip clubs (don’t ask…!) and almost never had a personal problem with it. (Experiences in third-world countries would be the exception.) But if someone has e.g. feminist objections, I respect that viewpoint, and I would not require enormous soul-searching re: boundaries, trust, etc. as a condition of my respect. (Not that soul-searching isn’t a good thing in itself, but sometimes that just isn’t the issue.)

    • i think what she meant by “this is not about strippers” is that everything she says is true even if you replace “strippers” with “camping.” it’s about boundaries and communication. and it doesn’t matter whether your discomfort with strippers (or camping) comes from a feminist objection or a fear of infidelity or anything else, you need to talk about it.

      the why is the big part. if you don’t say why you object, you put your partner in the position of “you’re either with me or against me” rather than “this bothers me because of xyz, and i want you to know where i’m coming from so i can know where you’re coming from.” it could be that she’s a feminist proponent of strip clubs. or camping.

      • EXACTLY. This needed capslock.

      • TNM

        I think that I again disagree. I don’t see strip clubs and camping as interchangeable. I see the former as having a political/sociological dimension, and the latter lacking this dimension. (OK, I’m sure you can up with some scenario where the latter is political – invading bear habitat perhaps? – but I’m comfortable with this generalization in most cases.) This doesn’t just have to be about strip clubs – it could be e.g. activity with a stronger enviromental connection, participation in activities that you consider culturally or racially insensitive, whatever… I’m just saying we should acknowledge that people may have a political objection to their partner’s activities (and that doesn’t just mean they’re afraid of, e.g., infidelity).

        I think there are analogs in the religious sphere too.

        This doesn’t mean that your political/religious objection trumps your partner’s opinion. And as I acknowledged, obviously good communication is key in any disagreement. But I would just like to make room for people to have these political positions – particularly in the realm of feminism when it seems that women sometime feel they have to be “apologists” for their own opinions or to couch things in less confrontational personal language (“it’s just me!”).

        • i completely agree. i suppose our difference lies in the fact that i found your concern to be precisely what alyssa was talking about. in fact, she specifically addressed that she didn’t think this was about infidelity – though i personally don’t think that changes the gist.

          my only point in including camping was to take it out of “typically contentious issue” territory so as to focus on the thoughts behind the issue rather than the issue itself – and possibly to be goofy. i apologize if that slightly derailed things.

          • TNM

            And I don’t want to derail things – and think I actually do agree with you 90% of the time! I.e. that you should discuss and address your *personal* feelings and fears about contentious issues in a relationship. Sometimes though it is just about the politcal “issue” itself. I.e. you don’t feel bad or insecure or emotionally invested, you just think, say, snowmobiling is really bad for Yellowstone Park and your partner shouldn’t do it.

        • No one’s opinion/morality trumps the other. The point is to discuss it. Elizabeth’s opinion is completely valid and she in no way has to explain it to anyone unless she feels like it.
          But when her opinion regarding them will affect a decision that her partner is going to make and in turn night affect their relationship. (in a small way, or a big way, that’s between them.) that’s when it’s not about strip clubs.

          And I apologize if the post came off in any way implying that Elizabeth (or anyone) should in any way apologize for how they feel about strip clubs or bachelor/bachelorette parties. Because that is so not true, I can’t even tell you how much….

          I agree with Lady Brett (and love the handle!) but another comparison might be if my husband was invited to attend a christening for a friend’s baby at a church that I know has horrible views on homosexuality and the rights of women in general. Do I have the right to hate on that church in my head and with my views and political actions and petitions without explanation?
          Do I have the right to tell my husband that I don’t want to go?
          Do I have the right to keep him from going without a serious discussion on why I don’t want him to go?
          Because then it’s not about the event, it’s about our relationship and how we deal with this event.

  • To the ladies who aren’t totally thrilled with the idea of a strip club, but accept that it’s often back of the bachelor party experience:*

    Make sure your man tips those ladies working on stage. That’s how they earn their bread and butter and those women should be compensated for the entertainment they are providing. I’d be MORTIFIED if I found out my husband didn’t tip the lady working it on stage.

    * and even to the ladies who end up there, or to anyone who goes anywhere where people work for tips….

    (also: best post ever. this is why APW continues to ROCK!)

    • meg

      Amen to that. Billz must be PAID. And most strippers are not stripping outta love for their job (though some may be.)

    • Class of 1980

      Make sure they treat them with respect too.

  • Rachel

    A+ on choosing a challenging topic and handling it so gently but directly. Seriously, ladies, awesome.

    I think one of the things that’s really important is the conversation of just knowing your partner and your friends at their core. Part of me finds it unkind that the writer won’t be there to support her friend. Strippers are a personal decision, sure; standing by your friend during the times that matter is important. It’s like politics: everybody has different beliefs, and the best thing we can do is talk about why people feel differently and see if we can’t find common ground.

  • ha! we were just talking about bachelor parties yesterday. not in an intellectual way like this, but it came up at lunch that our buddy is going to throw my girl a bachelor party.

    and i realized something – (for us) this is not at all about a “last hurrah.” i hate to break it, but the last hurrah happened a long time ago…or is not going to happen for a long time – i suppose it depends on your point of view.

    anyway. this isn’t a “last hurrah,” it’s a party with your buds. which, frankly, happens seldom enough now that we actually do need an excuse. and this is a culturally good excuse to say “hey! i like you, and we’re hanging out. damn it.” as compared to an un-titled party, which is more like “hey? i’m going to such-n-such, wanna come? if you’re not busy?” which is why we don’t see our friends often enough. which is why we need bachelor/ette parties. ahem.

    • Meaghan 2

      Love this! You are so right, parties are important regardless of what kind of fun you enjoy.We said goodbye to the single life long ago and this was just a chance to celebrate the next step with people we don’t get to see often enough.

    • Ren

      A friend of mine said the inverse of this recently. She said ‘why do we need a wedding to have a bachelorette [style] party? If we want to have a girly party, or a wild and crazy party, let’s just do it.’ Granted, we haven’t gotten around to doing that yet, which I guess is part of your point, but yea, let’s just have a party if we want to have a party. I did go on a weekend away with three girlfriends last year and it was fantastic and we’re thinking about doing it yearly. It was going to be a bachelorette party and then we decided, no, it’s just a fun weekend away cuz we want to.

  • Yippee!

    Y’all are rad.

    This is the basic issue I have with the weird form of ‘girls night’ I’ve found in this friend group: they’re an excuse to do things they wouldn’t be okay with doing if their partner is there. And that’s where it feels weird to me. Because the boys nights in this group are just about mellowing out, drinking, and playing video games. There’s no dishonesty. But a few of the girls are bored if they didn’t get raunchy and semi-dangerous. And I know for a fact that it’s not okay in their relationship. I often end up going and babysitting, but I occasionally don’t go because I know that things I won’t be okay with keeping a secret are going to happen.

    So: I wouldn’t go to something I had to keep a secret. I have been to strip club bachelor/bachelorette parties that were rad, and parties that were god-awful. I’ve been to camping co-ed hen parties that were fabulous. I have a feeling that ours will be fairly co-ed and very calm because we are both fairly calm people and we sowed all of our oats and don’t have to prove anything (which is what it would be for us personally, not what it is for everyone.)

    WAY longer than expected, the gist is: do what’s right for you. Don’t judge their choices, Have those conversations. Yay Dan Savage!

    • I feel the same way. People who feel like they HAVE to do something raunchy that they wouldn’t do if their partner knew make me uncomfortable. If both parties are ok with the secrets, than that is their prerogative. But in my relationship, secrets are frowned upon and I’m not going to go along with other people just so they can prove they aren’t tied down.

  • Arachna

    Yup yup yup.

    Want to add that the nights proposed would not be in any way inconsistent with the vows I took. Either with the actual vows we spoke or the meaning of them and I know exactly what I promised. So my baseline assumption is that these parties are in no way inconsistent or in tension with the vows they intend to take either. Certainly they have no affect on the vows the OP intends to take.

    But also, yes yes yes, if you are profoundly uncomfortable – do not go and explain in as much detail as possible why and how you feel to your fiance.

    And I dunno – I had a pretty tame history before I married my husband rather young despite opportunities – when I was about to get married I had quite a few “should have done more x, y, z! since nevermore now!” It was about closing the door on all those sexual adventures I had thought I’d have when I was 17 you know? Obviously my fiance at the time was worth it to me but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a twinge about knowing those vague plans/dreams were never going to happen. I just hadn’t gotten around to them and now it was too late. And I’m at peace with that but I don’t think feeling that way meant I wasn’t ready for marriage, I think it meant I a. valued adventure b. hadn’t had as much as I thought I would c. recognized the signficance of the commitment I was making and what it required of me – i.e. closing the doors in my imagination. Though for the record my bacherlorette was tame and not very fun.

    Also I can easily imagine saying something like “what happens in X stays in X” but can not imagine atually keepng to that – I assume people are joking when they say it. Aren’t they?

    • right? it seems like only in movies do people really take these parties to that extent, where secrets are necessary (except in the sense Alyssa mentioned, where you don’t tell because it’s too lame haha). on the other hand, sometimes you just want that sense of “we’re getting married and trust each other but you don’t have to know everything. I can have places in my head where you can’t go.” doesn’t mean you’ve done anything the other person would have a problem with, you just like that bit of mystery/privacy (assuming this is understood within the relationship). I have that feeling sometimes, although it didn’t apply to my bachelorette party.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I’ve actually been to a bachelorette party where the bride made everyone promise never ever to tell anyone what happened. I found it very uncomfortable and particularly so because nothing really untoward happened. We did a pub crawl and a “sexy” scavenger hunt that involved things like getting a guy to buy you a drink and getting a kiss on the cheek and singing karaoke. It was Halloween so there was also a ‘find a pirate, Ron Burgandy, a serial killer, etc.’ element. It was very fun and the strangers who bought us drinks and gave cheek kisses were really respectful and happy to celebrate the bride’s committment. So the secrecy felt really strange.

        Anyway, there are people who proscribe to the what happens there stays there philosophy, but I’m still not sure why.

  • I agree- discuss, discuss, discuss with your fiance!! APW makes it quite obvious that everyone celebrates weddings in their own way, whether it be a beautiful elopement, a simple city hall ceremony or an outdoor wedding. The same applies to bachelor/bachelorette parties- every is going to choose their way to party. How you & your fiance participate is up to the two of you, hopefully after any needed discussion.

  • Claire

    Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking response, Meg and Alyssa! I want to “exactly” the whole thing. Posts like this are the reason I still read APW everyday even though my wedding was back in September.

    • kyley

      Posts like this are the reason I’ve been reading APW for 2.5 years, and we’re not getting married for at least another 2.5. :)

  • Man this topic. It’s hard for me because even though I told myself I just wanted a laidback bachelorette (which I know I would’ve been fine with if it’d just been dinner and a FEW drinks), that didn’t happen whatsoever and I totally had a stereotypical bachelorette night.

    My bachelorette was kind of a mess from the start. The one bridesmaid that lives near me (everyone else was on the east coast) that was supposed to plan it well.. didn’t. So Matt (my husband) ended up taking the reins in trying to get some of my other friends to throw me something 2 days before the wedding.. and they totally did.

    I’m not a big partier or drinker, but every once in awhile it’s fun. So did I wear the sash and tiara and get really drunk at a dueling piano bar? Yes. My bachelorette was fun until I got so drunk I threw up on the side of the street in the middle of Seattle, I burst a blood vessel in my eye from throwing up so hard (that ended up literally making my entire right eye bloody for my wedding day, awesome!), and ended up crying when I got home in front of both my Dad and then of course to Matt (who showed me how amazing of a husband he would be while taking care of my absurdly drunk self.) It’s hard because it started out fun, and we all laugh when we look back at it, but holy crap what a terrible night it turned out to be.

    So, learning from my experience.. Try your best to communicate to your friends what you want at your bachelorette. I had fun at mine until I flat out got much drunker than I wanted to be and probably never should have gotten to that point. It’s something I can look back and laugh at now, but at the time it wasn’t really fun. And honestly, having to angle my head for every photo at my wedding because of my horribly bloodshot eye kind of sucked… along with having to deal with being embarrassed in front of my Dad the morning after the bachelorette (since he was staying with us), and having to lie to my in-laws about how I got burst a blood vessel (I sneezed hard?) all kind of sucked.

    At least I got a funny story out of it. (But seriously, learn a lesson from me and be sure to communicate to everyone around you what you want!)

  • My fiance and I are negotiating this right now. When we first started talking about bachelor/ette paries, he was of the mind that he just wanted a chill evening with his close friends and brother, hanging out, drinking beers, maybe at a casino or in a cabin at the beach. He said he didn’t want strippers, as well. Suddenly, due largely to the peer pressure that’s already been going on (I have witnessed it directly), his bros’ night is turning into a huge to-do with naked ladies included.

    I’m not against him going to a strip club in general, but I’m not totally comfortable with the last-night-of-freedom nonsense that gets bandied about at bachelor/ette parties, and that impacts my feelings about strippers at bachelor/ette parties. At this point I have requested total honesty from him about what goes on and what I should expect to go on, and I think that will be fine. He’s a grown-up and I trust him to be honest and ultimately respectful of our relationship and me.

    And we’ve also discussed the importance of discussing his boundaries with his friends and brother ahead of time, and I think that is true no matter what you’re planning for your bachelor/ette parties, because there IS this culture of WOOO-LAST-NIGHT debauchery. For instance, he says he’s not interested in a lap dance, but he has to make sure to spell that out in no unclear terms if he wants his wishes respected. The same is true for me, in that I am not interested in having a raucous night out getting hammered, and I need to communicate those boundaries to the folks who will be participating in my bachelorette in order to avoid a negative experience.

    • You know, I know it’s been discussed a bit above, but I find it fascinating that most men and women don’t seem to desire this crazy nudy party for themselves, and the people in attendance are mostly uninterested, but there is this huge pressure to want the stripper party for someone ELSE.

      Isn’t that bizarre?

      • Amy

        I was told after the fact (in a ‘whoops, didn’t know you weren’t aware of that’) sort of way by my husband’s best man that the only person who was really gung-ho about strippers during my husband’s bachelor weekend was my brother. Dunno if its because he was youngest guy there and felt he “needed” to prove himself, or because he thought bachelor parties really had to have strippers. Either way it kinda cracked me up that everyone else (and the groom) was like, whatever, I’d rather just hang out and drink but that he was kinda sad about it.

        • Yeah, it’s kind of funny/weird/sad/bizarre.

          Like, I think there’s this feeling amongst men that you’re a bad friend if you don’t want the stripper party for your buddy, even if you don’t necessarily want it yourself (as the friend) and you know the groom isn’t that into it either.

          I think the bachelor conversation runs parallel to a lot of our conversations about WIC standards. The “last night of freedom”brings its very own dude-oriented WIC pressure. (“You’re doing it wrong if there aren’t any naked ladies!!!” “It’s a rite of passage!!” “You’ll regret it if you don’t and there will never be another chance like this!!!”)

          And unfortunately there aren’t a lot of places where guys can have this conversation to eek out how they actually feel about the whole thing.

      • z

        Maybe it’s bizarre, or maybe it’s just a convenient excuse for something they really do want to do, but don’t want to admit that publicly or to their significant other. Because real friends don’t pressure friends into doing things they aren’t comfortable with, right?

  • Class of 1980

    Some people can do this type of party in such a way that it’s just for laughs. No harm done. Other people really are looking for an excuse to get some action.

    I worked at a company where two co-workers got married. A lot of the male co-workers went to the bachelor party. They had a private room somewhere and hired a couple of strippers and evidently, some really bad stuff happened.

    It was bad enough that some of the women co-workers who were friends of the bride quit speaking to the male co-worker who planned the party. The bride wasn’t happy. It put a negative shadow over the whole wedding, even though the groom didn’t do anything bad himself.

    The sad thing was that the couple was crazy in love and never expected what happened.

    From what little reading I’ve done on what strippers themselves have to say, my understanding is that this sort of thing is not unheard of.

    Although I’m not a fan of this type of party, I’m not fussed enough about it to make a big deal. It really comes down to the type of people who are throwing the party and the type of people who are attending. It can be hard to control depending on the personalities in the room.

    • Amy

      I think that just speaks to the personalities of the people attending though. Personally, I wouldn’t hold the organizer responsible for the behavior of the people who went too far in the private room. Would I think its sketchy and kind of gross (and also um, illegal probably)? Yes. But I’ve also known “those guys” who think strippers + bachelor party = free pass to cheat. Those are also the guys who probably should not have gotten married in the first place, or who cheat on their wives or who just generally are not big on monogamy and commitment. It sucks, but I don’t think it reflects on the groom or the organizer.

      • Class of 1980


        The fact that the party organizer was blamed was not idle speculation in this case. The groom and other attendees spilled the beans. In fact, he never even tried to deny that he was the instigator of the bad stuff that went down.

        Other than that, yes, it’s about the personalities of the people involved. Unfortunately, no one anticipated what the planner was capable of.

        No one blamed the groom. He was basically a victim.

        • Amy

          Hmmm. I dunno, I guess I’m just reluctant to really blame any adult for “bad stuff that goes down” with strippers. I don’t deny that it happened, and that there was peer pressure, but at the end of the day these were adults who were still capable of walking out, or saying no, or of leaving. Would you buy the peer pressure argument if it came from your teenage kid who drank at a party after being told it wasn’t ok with you? I wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t call a kid who choose to drink in that situation a “victim” of the organizer of the party.
          It reminds me of the ‘boys will be boys’ argument – men aren’t suddenly incapable of remembering that they are in a committed relationship in the face of naked boobies. And if they are, even with peer pressure, well, I don’t have much respect for them then.
          Though – if by “bad stuff happened” you mean women who were hired to do a job were sexually assaulted by the attendees (which god, I hope not) that is a totally different story. That is inexcusable, and totally on the organizer/perpetrators.

          • Class of 1980

            Amy, I think maybe you’re reading things into my comments that aren’t there. I’m the last person on planet earth who would use the “boys will be boys” excuse.

            The blame put on the party organizer was because he was personally responsible for taking action to have things happen that the bride and groom would never have agreed to.

            I didn’t say anything about the rest of the attendees and what they did or didn’t do. Even if none of the attendees participated, the organizer would still have been wrong to instigate it at all.

            I worked with the organizer and everyone involved. Believe me, the organizer was very conscious afterward that he crossed a big line.

  • Barbaloot

    Hmmmm, I don’t comment very often (though I’m reading every day!), but this one actually gets to some stuff that me and my sweetie have talked about to some degree. Kudos to you guys for emphasizing the whole “talking about boundaries” thing, especially sexual boundaries! I’m a little bit bisexual (as in, probably mostly hetero, depending on the day/month/year…), so we’ve talked quite a bit about that, including the “would you have a threesome with me” conversation (ironically, I’m the one who isn’t comfy with the idea), and I can’t imagine what things would be like if we didn’t have these sorts of conversations! Here’s the thing: talking about sex and sexual boundaries makes the sex itself really awesome!

    For us, the bachelor/bachelorette party thing isn’t really about sexual boundaries, but more about gender boundaries. Neither of us fit into the traditional gender roles for men and women, and it feels like the bachelor/bachelorette tradition kind of revolves around taboo activities for men and taboo activities for women, i.e. the sorts of things one does when one is single and with their group of same-sex friends, but not things they can do once they are married. It’s cool that lots of people are bucking this tradition but still having some sort of party, but even a cool Hen Party feels weird to me. I seriously doubt any of my friends will try to organize any such thing for me, but just in case I’ll be politely asking them to consult me before organizing anything… We have talked about having a “co-ed” party of some sort with us and whoever is in our wedding party, and that’s probably the way we’ll go. We may have to contend with his friends really wanting a more traditional bachelor thing, but at worst that will just be mildly annoying to deal with.

    I’ve never really thought much about the whole stripper thing (as in, how would I feel about my man going to a strip club with all his male friends). I know my sweetie, and I know HE would feel uncomfortable in such a situation, so I think I would just kind of feel sorry for him if he was hauled off by his friends to a place that makes him uncomfortable…

  • So I’ve been keeping an eye out for this post ever since Alyssa mentioned it on Twitter a few months ago. :D

    It strikes me that another way boundaries get negotiated in this instance is that for a lot of people, getting married means needing to reevaluate the boundaries between their relationship and other people. Perhaps some women (or men) are protesting the feeling that their betrothed’s friends seem to have more influence over his/her activities than they themselves do (and, unfortunately, there are some friends who will put that kind of pressure of “choose your spouse or choose me” on an engaged person [which always struck me as a little strange, because what do you think the engaged person is going to do, say “Oh you, definitely you. Forget this person I want to spend the rest of my life with”?]).

    Whatever ends up catalyzing the conversation, I think it’s a good idea to have that talk of “How do we envision our friendships changing once we’re married? Or do we think they will change? Do we want them to? What is your comfort level in terms of what I can share with my friends?” (And remember – friends [usually] are not the enemy. They helped make your fiance/e the wonderful person he or she is! :))

    • Class of 1980

      Changing friendship dynamics – now that’s another subject for APW on another day.

      • meg


  • Beth C

    This was one of those posts where I was nodding the entire way through. The boundaries issue is one I am always bringing up in conversations with friends (but much less articulately than here).
    I think the advice about discussing your boundaries goes further than the bachelor parties. I think it’s important to have that conversation and to figure out what you and your partner are comfortable with (in terms of sexuality, sexual contact and even emotional contact with other people). And it’s equally important to recognize that another couples’ conversation might look totally different than yours – and that is OK, if it works for them, then great.
    Also, love the Dan Savage plug!!

  • My fiance and I aren’t big drinkers and we were on the fence about having bachelor/bachelorette parties at all. Especially since we just found out that I’m 8 weeks pregnant! But our friends really wanted to do something special for us.
    Tomorrow night is my night and we’re just planning to go to dinner and play some games.
    His friends wanted to take him to a strip club, but it’s really not his thing and he told them that…so plan B for them is a night of Karaoke at a local bar!

    This should be interesting since noone knows I’m pregnant…not sure how to tell them I don’t want to drink!! Wish me luck!

    • Morgan


    • Amy

      Laura – if you don’t want to tell people this early, you can always do what I do at conferences when I don’t want to drink but people always seem to be putting something in your hand. Go to the bar, request a tonic water+lime. It will look like a cocktail and nobody will notice. Another thing that always works (if its feasible with the bar setup) is to flag down the bartender in private, let them know you can’t/won’t be drinking but don’t want to announce it, and ask them to make your drinks with just mixers but no booze. It helps if you tip them while making this request ;)

      • Those are great ideas…thanks!

        • Amy

          And congratulations of course!

    • Hoppy Bunny

      luck!!! And congrats! :)

  • “Some people think bachelor parties need boobies and peen. Some don’t. To each his (or her) own.”

    I personally believe it’s not a real bachelor party without adrian zmed and tawny kitaen … and that guy with the mustache.

    (thanks, guys, for discussing this crazy, complicated minefield.)

  • Elizabeth

    So this was my question and I think the advice was great! It’s also more or less what I concluded on my own.

    My fiance and I have decided that he can go (if he wants to) but this is a one time thing because his friend is important to him (and to me as well).

    For anyone who may have been confused, my issue was never about whether I trust him or not. As Alyssa and Meg have pointed out it is an issue of boundaries. And although I do not agree with the idea of a bachelor party at a strip club, I am willing to compromise.

    Unfortunately I am at the “disadvantage” of being on vacation at the moment and cannot spend time commenting as much as I would like. Thank you to everyone for your interest, insight, and support.

  • Lily

    “Though it seems to be taboo, I personally believe that celebrating your impending marriage with your friends by treating it like impending doom and getting drunk AND hot and bothered by a member of the opposite sex that is not your intended seems to imply that you aren’t really ready to get married. ”

    There is one piece that has been addressed indirectly, but not directly, and I think its worth saying: We shouldn’t judge each other, and we are NEVER the people to decide if others are ready or mature enough to get married.

    That just seems so hurtful. Boycotting events is really different than choosing not to attend them, though you can secretly boycott them, and tell the host that you are feeling sick and just won’t be able to make it after all.

    Hella people said already that morality is individual, and I really, really strongly believe that. Have your morals, stick to your guns, but don’t ever presume that yours are so right and someone else’s are so wrong that you get to make decisions or judgements about their lives.

    “They also said that whatever happened at the respective parties must remain a secret to the other, like “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” which seems to allow for all sorts of immoral things to happen.”

    Also, putting oneself in the position of being immoral (whatever that means to a particular individual) is not the same as being immoral. We are constantly in the position of being immoral, but actually breaking your own moral code is a completely different story. Again, for me, this comes down to your own personal code of ethics, and leaving others alone. Why should you care if other couples do “immoral” things?

    • Elizabeth

      I really don’t care what people do in their own homes, as long as they are treating each other the way they wish to be treated. However, imposing a “what happens in Vegas” rule on the entire night for all that attend- they have no business telling my fiance and I (or anyone else) that we cannot discuss the night with each other.

      My concern for their marriage is not based solely on their ideas of the perfect bachelor/ette party. Though I did find it odd that almost in the same sentence that the engagement was announced, the topic turned to strippers. In reality though, this is just one of my concerns, and stems from the wish to see my friends truly happy.

  • z

    I also think this sort of behavior is a really, really messed-up way to start a marriage, and says a lot of things about how messed-up gender in our society is. Such a weird little “safe” pseudo-transgressive ritualistic behavior– they’re such rebels, so unconstrained by social norms! Why is it so important to people to do this particular thing? I can understand if not everyone finds it unethical, but why does it have to be such a common cliche?

    This was a very unpleasant issue for me and my now-husband. He likes to consider himself a feminist, and he wasn’t able to defend the activity on ethical/feminist grounds, but still wanted to go. I was really disappointed by that and didn’t see why I should say OK if he couldn’t even persuade himself that it was an acceptable choice. It’s not like there’s some kind of “unless it disappoints my male friends” exception to feminism.

    I think a lot of couples let this issue slide because it’s uncomfortable to find out how badly the person actually does want to go. I had thought he was less susceptible to peer pressure than he actually is. It caused me to lose respect for him, and it was overall a really humiliating experience for me to have to debate it with him. Ultimately he ended up with a policy of leaving the bachelor parties before the strip club portion starts, so it worked out well in the end, but the way he clung to the idea definitely diminished him in my eyes. I thought if they are really his friends they would not want to make him do something he supposedly thinks is unethical. Real friends would understand, right?

    To Elizabeth: I would really encourage you to stand up for your own ethical views! You are entitled to have an ethical perspective, and being married means taking the other person’s ethical perspective seriously. You are not at all crazy, and it is not unfair.

    Maybe it would help if he did some research on the record of the particular strip club. Does it have a history of labor violations or employee lawsuits? Sexual assaults? Substance abuse activity? How is its health record? Who operates it and what is that person’s background? That could help him decide if it’s an acceptable business for him to support, and if he would still enjoy it knowing the answers to those questions.

    If it’s any help, the older we get the less our friends think this is an appealing or acceptable choice, so the issue kind of goes away on its own.

  • z

    Sponsored post idea: a discount at a demonstratedly non-exploitative strip club. Any takers?

  • Thank you Meg & Alyssa for tackling this question so wisely. Y’all rock!

  • Lydia

    Coincidentally, I am attending a bachelorette party in a couple weeks that totally turned my idea of what that kind of celebration could be on its head. The bride requested that all the ladies attending dress up as super heroes (I know!) We’ll be going to a drag club in SF and then bar-hopping in the Castro… Best. Idea. Ever!
    I’m truly looking forward to it because it’ll be a great way to get a little crazy with friends without going “too far.” In the past, I’ve felt sort of anxious about going to bachelorette parties because strippers are really not my thing. I didn’t want to be a spoil-sport if I went, and I didn’t want to hurt my friends by opting out entirely. Reading this post and all the comments, I feel way better prepared to handle that when it comes up again!

  • Jen W

    Thank you, Alyssa and Meg for such a thoughtful, thorough response. Articles like this are the reason I read APW (though I never comment), and I just wanted to express my gratitude for you ladies, your words, and the amazing community you’re building here.

  • Mandy

    This statement gave me pause:
    “First up, your rules do not have to be the same as anyone else’s rules. Your friends are not doing anything immoral, or disrespecting their vows, as long as they are respecting each other. They could agree to go to Vegas and each hire a hooker, and it would be none of your business. What is your business is what ground rules you set with your partner.”

    First, I agree that, in the abstract, what coupled friends chose to do within their relationship is their business. My only concern is that my friends are in safe, honest relationships.

    However, when you’re talking about bachelor/bachelorette parties where either (a) the engaged person is asking you to stand up at their wedding in support of their union (i.e. be an honor attendant) or (b) the engaged person is asking you to contribute to/attend said party, I don’t think it’s that simple. They have made it your business. If you feel it is immoral to engage in sexual acts outside the relationship (regardless of whether the couple is comfortable with it), I think you have a right to respectfully refuse to participate, contribute, or act as an honor attendant. (Although I don’t think this means you have suddenly attained the right to lecture them.) And I think it’s fine to be honest with your friends concerning why you will be refraining from participating. In my opinion, to do otherwise is hypocritical.

    I know a person who heeded Alyssa’s/Meg’s advice above and contributed money for a groom to participate in sexual, physical acts with a sex worker at a bachelor party. The person claimed that he thought it was horrible, immoral, and that he was disgusted. Honestly, I found the contributor’s actions even more disturbing; the groom may have discussed it with his fiance and entered an agreement (although I know in this case the actions were deceptive).

    I think under some circumstances, if your conscience is troubled by supporting what you feel are intrinsically wrong actions (e.g. if you think monogamy is a moral imperative of marriage) you have to be true to yourself and respectfully, tactfully withdraw from participation or contribution.

  • Emily Elizabeth

    This is sort of an aside, but make sure to have the discussion about your own plans to have bachelor/bachelorette parties before the wedding. My maid of honor planned one for me, and I was excited (it was a 16-year-old-little-sister-safe slumber party) but my husband was still upset when I told him it was going to happen, not because of any stripper issues, but because it was girls-only. This was something I hadn’t even thought about, but probably should have based on what I know about him–he hates “girl talk” and “girls night because they are girl-exclusive, it’s an ongoing discussion.

    It did happen, and was fun, and everything was okay, but I do regret not having that discussion with him first. NOT that I need to “ask permission”, of course, but if I had know that was how he felt, we probably would have had some sort of co-ed event instead, and that would also have been fun.

  • MeitsMo

    I love Meg and Alyssa!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank goodness for the inerwebs, intelligent humans and instant coffee- love starting my day off with such thoughtful dialogue- thank you both and all the peeps who commented!

  • Wench

    I have been keeping my eyes peeled for the infamous ‘stripper’ post and you did not dissapoint. I am a (burlesque) stripper and will admit that I was nervous about ‘strippers are bad’ comments that may arise but as usual Meg, Alyssa and the Apw readers are honest, insightful and respectful. Thank you.
    Also advising people to talk about boundaries and read Dan Savage makes me automatically love you guys.

  • Pingback: Dear “Bachelors”: A Follow-Up « Dear Mr. Postman()

  • Chantelle

    My fiance just had his bachelor party two days ago. It was just a day of golf and poker at our house. And lots of alcohol. He had at least 30 shots, no water and little food. I was okay with it – I mean, no strippers, no bars – what would I get upset about? But then the day-of his friends told me how many shots he had, and some videos of him drunk. I felt sick to my stomach. Later that evening, he called me from from the floor because he had passed out. I adamantly had said I did not want to see him that evening when he was drunk but after his multiple calls and texts I came home. I was the bitch that politely asked his friends still playing poker to leave because he asked me to kick them out (obviously, he wasn’t feeling well from all the alcohol). I got 3 hours of sleep that night because I was so worried about him. We don’t normally drink at all and I knew he had 30+ shots that day. Can anyone help me figure out why I feel uneasy still? There were NO STRIPPERS, no girls. I wanted him to have a good time but for some reason I did and still feel (3 days later), uneasy. Please please help. I even wrote him a letter after reading this post. It helped somewhat but I still feel uneasy.

  • natalie

    Thank you for this post, and for making me feel a lot better about this subject. I am getting married next June, and while my fiancé doesn’t frequent strip clubs, he has subscribed to Playboy in the past.

    I find it so helpful to have a balanced opinion on these subjects. Thanks APW!

    Is it my insecurity? Am I wrong?

    I asked myself these questions as I stood in my now fiancé’s living room three years ago when we first started dating. I discovered three recent issues of Playboy on the coffee table. Yep. COFFEE TABLE.

    I questioned my morals, my values, and my righteous judgement. First of all, why do you need Playboy on your coffee table? Are you an animal? Are you a twelve year-old?

    I digress. I have a serious problem with strip clubs, and with Playboy, but I certainly do not judge the women who work at strip clubs. I do not think they are dirty people. They are human beings with dignity and deserve respect just like any other woman or man. When I hear people say “strippers are filthy” or “I don’t want a stripper touching my boyfriend” it seems really sad to me, because none of us truly knows the inner-workings of those people, their values, their morals, or their lives. At the same time, I would have a problem with my fiancé attending a strip club, only because I don’t think it’s a mature or responsible way for someone to behave, especially before they get married. It also makes me uncomfortable because I do believe sex work is a very serious social issue that involves highly complex assumptions about human sexuality, morality, and human objectification. Drinking in the presence of someone who is getting paid to sell their body is a serious cultural issue and has ethical and moral ramifications.

    That’s just me.

    In terms of “giving permission” to your fiancé about whether or not they should/should not go to a strip club, I am unsure because I have never been in this exact situation. I told Mr. future husband that Playboy in the living room was a serious deal-breaker for me, because I’m a librarian and I could suggest hundreds of other publications that are more worthwhile to read.

    • Ren

      Not to belabor the point, and your desire to not have naked girls on your coffee table is valid … but have you ever read the articles in Playboy? From time to time, they’ve occasionally done some really fantastic articles. I cited a Playboy interview with Kurt Vonnegut in a paper once (and they interviewed Malcolm X. And Betty Friedan. And others.) Just sayin :-)

  • NTG

    Preamble: I’m a dude. In case that matters.

    Mostly a good response, but I wonder if there wasn’t insufficient weight given to the “I don’t want him to go” part of things. Yes, it is his decision. But if he sees how much it bothers her to think of him at a party with secrets, or watching strippers, or whatever part of this is really at the heart of the issue (and I totally agree she should figure out which it really is before having the Hard Conversation about it) and he still decides to go, that looks like a problem to me. Not a “Oh no, he doesn’t love me our relationship is ruined” problem, but a “He doesn’t really understand what’s going on” problem.

    I recall a thing that my ladyfriend wanted to do (not remotely sexual or relationship related) that freaked me right out. I asked that if she do it, she make sure that I was there with her. You know, so I could try to fix things if they went horribly wrong. Instead, she offered to never do it at all. That meant a lot to me, and if there’s ever anything she wants me to not do, I’m game.

    So, I highly recommend they talk about whatever it is at the bottom of her horror and disdain at this party, but I also recommend that he not go. He doesn’t have to agree, or understand, but if it means so much to his fiance, he should do what she wants.

  • Elle Dee

    Well, I am keeping it real. I understand that everyone here is accepting and progressive and wafting in the breeze of allowing and accepting…

    but I told my fiance…you do this, we’re not getting married. End of story.

    I am a very big advocate of the women who work in the sex industry, a lot of them got into it under very unsavory terms. My feelings has nothing to do with the actual women.

    A lot of these same men, including my fiance, would be outraged to see their wives and girlfriends on the pole. Why?

    Because unfortunately, this is a very degrading industry. I could go on a tangent, but I won’t.

    My whole deal, is why do you need to fill EVERY sexual need and desire that you have? What happened to sacrifice? What happened to accountability and self control?

    Unfortunately, I feel like the world has become very self absorbed, in wanting to satisfy needs that, ultimately won’t be satisfied.

    Marriage is about commitment, maybe for some there are varying forms, etc. I agree with the original poster, the origin sets around giving a man his one last night of bad behavior. I may not care about the other person throwing the party, or what they may feel, I care about how my relationship with my partner is represented. I have made a severe and life long choice, even before marriage of committing to my future husband. To his daughter, and to our son. This means, that I have to sacrifice my binge drinking, my sexual one night stands, staying out all night every night till 5 am (I did all of these before my relationship). I too have sacrificed some of my sexual freedoms to sustain a family. I am attractive, I am a wonderful woman, its not about feeling like no one wants me or I can’t offer him sexually what the strippers are offering (except a nice body, pregnancy is not cute, kids are draining). It’s about his ability to keep his desires under control, as I have done for the sake of our family.

    No, I won’t play wedding police, that is none of my damn business. But I will police my relationship and make things clear. Sometimes ladies, you have to put your foot down. You better believe he will if you’re doing something he doesn’t like.

    But if you’re up to it, and he is, then do it together. That would be a great experience.

    I understand the progressive modern approach, but I have seen enough bodies of men, and laid all over the place with them, and realized that it isn’t worth it. I am good keeping my hands to myself, and he (who has also been every damn where with females) should be alright with that too…


  • Jean

    This is all very fresh and I probably shouldn’t be writing about it so soon but I’m sick and nervous, and humiliated and I don’t know what to do. My fiance and I have been together for 8 years and are getting married in October. Our relationship is completely solid. Never cheated. Never wanted to. Talk about everything.

    In the last couple of years we’ve both agreed that if either one got drunk and cheated, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. We figured our relationship could withstand it. We’d been through so much together, after all. Looking back, this conversation was only so easy because it seemed completely out of the realm of possibility. To both of us.

    Fast forward to tonight. My fiance went out of town for his Bachelor party weekend with his friends. I knew they would be visiting a strip club. I also knew that it would be for the “tradition” of going to a strip club. For the “male camaraderie”. Just to check it off the list.

    In no way did I ever, never in a million years think what happened would happen. But it did. He got drunk. he got taken to a back room. He paid some girl $100. And she went down on him. And he reciprocated. He told me all of this tonight. And how disgusted he felt. And how when he was finished, they still had time left so she asked him to go down on her. And he did. Because he felt like he couldn’t say no.

    I honestly don’t know what to think. I never thought I would have to be googling clinics at midnight 3 months before my wedding so that my fiance could get tested for STds.

    If I were reading this, I would totally be judging this girl. Who thought she had a perfect relationship and ended up with what every girl is scared will happen. I was never scared. I knew he would never do that to us.

    But he did. And I have no idea what to do. None. He’s the love of my life. The only one who’s ever fit. The father of my future children, and my future husband. How can I leave him over this one little thing.

    But it seems huge. Insurmountable. How do I ever look him in the eyes again? How do I KISS him knowing? How does HE get over it? He hates himself. He says he’s not worthy to be the father of our children or to have me. God I hope someone can help me out on this. I’m at a loss. What do you do when your soul-mate makes the biggest mistake of your lives?

    • NTG

      Oh, fuck. I don’t know. Pray. I would pray. And forgive. It sounds like you want to, but you don’t know how to. I’ve got nothing to help with that, I’m not good at it either. But I have learned that forgiving and forgetting are totally unrelated. You can never forget (even though you and he might want to) but you can perhaps forgive.

      But shit. That will be hard.

      Don’t think of it as “one little thing.” It’s one HUGE thing. It wouldn’t be a shame to leave him over it. He knows it. But you don’t have to. You can stay. Because you love him. Because even though he hurt you more than you ever thought possible, you can still choose to love him.